Seduction And The CEO - Page 47

Then she’d tossed and turned all night long, imagining his anger, his reaction, Stephanie’s thoughts and feelings when she found out Melissa had been a fraud. Melissa was going to get a promotion out of this, no doubt about it. Seth was nearly beside himself with glee. Brandon was surly and sulking. And Everett himself had sent her an e-mail congratulating her on the coup.

Susan had guessed she was feeling guilty. But in her usual pragmatic style, she’d advised Melissa to put it behind her and focus on her future. Jared was a big boy, and he’d get over the inroad on his precious privacy.

It was a positive article. The quotes Melissa had used were accurate. She hadn’t made anybody look foolish or mean-spirited. She’d mentioned Stephanie’s jumping trophies, Jared’s hardworking ancestors, his move from cattle ranching to construction to save the family’s land. And she’d made Royce look like a fun-loving maverick. He’d probably get a dozen marriage proposals out of the coverage.

She hadn’t used a single thing she’d learned from sleeping with Jared. Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling she was wrong.

It lasted through her morning shower, through the breakfast she couldn’t bring herself to eat, during the train ride to the office in the morning, up the elevator to her floor and then all the way to her desk.

Jared was an intensely private man. She’d invaded his privacy on false pretenses. And even though she hadn’t used their pillow talk in her article, she’d crossed a line. She’d befriended him. She’d gained his trust. She’d let him think he could let his guard down, and he had.

Plus, and here was the crux of the matter, she’d fallen in love with him. And you didn’t betray the person you loved. You were loyal, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what was to be gained or lost. You were loyal.

That was why Jared’s grandfather hid the gun. An extreme example, perhaps. But his loyalty was to his son, and he’d risked his freedom to protect him. Melissa wouldn’t even give up a promotion.

She dropped her purse on her desk, her gaze going to Seth’s office. His head was bent over his desk-no doubt he was working his way through her article. It would go upstairs by lunchtime, be typeset by the end of the day and move along the pipe to the printing press.

At that point, nothing could stop it from hitting the streets. She had one chance and one chance only to make things right. Jared might not love her, and he might never speak to her again. But she loved him, and she had to live with herself after today.

She crossed the floor to Seth’s office, opening the door without knocking.

He jerked his head up. “What?”

“I’ve changed my mind,” she said without preamble, striding to his desk.

His mouth dropped open in confusion.

“The article,” she clarified. “You can’t run it.”

Seth’s mouth worked for a second before it warmed up to actual words. “Is this a joke? It’s not funny. Now get the hell out of my office. I have work to do.”

“I’m not joking.”

“Neither am I. Get out.”

“Jared Ryder does not want us to print it.”

“Jared Ryder can stuff it. We need the numbers.”

Melissa began to panic. “You can’t run it.”

“Yes, I can.”

She scrambled for a solution. “I lied, Seth,” she lied baldly. “I made it up. The quotes are bogus, and I was never on the Ryder Ranch.”

Seth’s complexion went ruddy, and a vein popped out in his forehead. “Have you gone insane?”

“I’ll swear to it, Seth. I’ll tell the whole world I made up the story.”

“And I’ll fire your ass.”

“I don’t care!” she shouted. She had to stop him. She couldn’t let her work see the light of day.

Seth’s gaze shifted to a point over her left shoulder and his eyes went wide.

Fear churned in her stomach, but she carried on, anyway. It was her last chance to make things right. “If you run it, I’ll swear I made the whole piece up. The Bizz will get sued, and you’ll lose your job.”

Seth’s mouth worked, but no sound came out.

“Don’t test me on this, Seth,” she vowed. “Pull the article. I’ll quit. I’ll go away quietly. You can make up whatever you want to tell Everett.”

“Noble of you,” came a voice behind her.

Everett. The publisher had heard her threats.

Not that she’d expected to keep her job, anyway, but it was humiliating to have an additional witness. She clamped her jaw, squared her shoulders and headed for the door.

Her stomach instantly turned to a block of ice.